Keith Flett is a union leader who has lived in Tottenham for more than two decades.
I was watching the football game in a restaurant [Saturday night]. I went out on the street at about 11 p.m. The rioting was in full swing at that point. The rioters were a mixed crowd – black, white, some young and some not so young. Things were burning, people were running – it was not the kind of situation you want to hang around for, so I headed home.
I went back out the next day. There are quite a few historic buildings in this area, and some are now badly damaged. Some people lost their dwellings above the burned shops. That’s pretty tough.
[by police of 29-year-old Mark Duggan on Thursday] is what sparked all this off. And what the community needs now is answers. We want a fully independent inquiry into the shooting, not just an internal inquiry by the police. [Duggan] may not have been the most perfect of human beings, but that doesn’t mean he had to be shot dead.
“These kids are wandering around the area, bored”
There’s another problem that has to be addressed: because of cuts in public services, over half of the youth centres in Tottenham have closed recently
. [After-school clubs and counselling services were also shut down this year.] These centres gave youth a place to hang out, play sports, stay off the streets. There have also been cuts to the program that gives 16- to 18-years old small allowances as an incentive to continue their education.
Now these kids are wandering around the area, bored. So it’s not totally unexpected that something like this would happen. We need to look at how cuts in services are affecting this community.
Of course, these cuts aren’t the sole cause of the riots, but it’s certainly a factor in the wider mix. It’s created a space where people are more inclined to think, ‘well, what have I got to lose?’ Tottenham has a high unemployment rate, racism is a big issue, and there are a lot of people who are totally alienated from the system. But there’s a real community spirit as well, so we’ve got grapple with all these issues.”
A carpet store before and after the riots that shook Tottenham on Saturday. Top image courtesy of Google Maps; bottom photo courtesy of @ravisomaiya.
Rioters set fire to a Foot Locker store in Brixton. Photo taken on the morning of Monday, August 8. Courtesy of Luke Massey